Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Summer of Children’s Classic – Peter Pan –Hook’s Daughter by Heidi Schulz

As part of the last week of our Summer of Children’s Classics, we are back in Neverland with a recently published Peter Pan sequel, ‘Hook’s Daughter’ by Heidi Schulz.

Hook’s Daughter is a delight, a funny swashbuckling yarn, told by a cantankerous narrator who tells the tale of great Captain Hook’s daughter, Jocelyn. As daughter and heir of the most feared pirate ever to sail the Seven Seas, Jocelyn isn’t shaping up to be the daughter her grandfather wishes her to be. After numerous governesses and failed attempts at teaching Jocelyn to be lady destined for a good match and future prospects, The girl is shipped off to ‘Miss Eliza Crumb-Biddlecomb’s finishing School for Young Ladies. ‘

But Jocelyn is determined to follow her own path, to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a pirate. Despite Jocelyn’s aptitude for breaking governesses, she finds that school is much more difficult than she anticipated, her scruffy appearance, lack of manners and defiant attitude landing her trouble from the onset. It is only her newfound secret friend, Roger the cook’s servant, who gives her any joy as the pair escape to the store rooms, and read adventures stories and plan their own expedition. Yet her joy is short-lived, when her friendship is exposed, Roger is sent away and Jocelyn makes a wish upon her star for an adventure.

One should never wish upon a star unless they are prepared for the wish to be granted. The moment the wish is made, an oversized black bird by the name of ‘Edgar Allen’, appears and delivers to the girl a letter, one that is essentially the last will and testament of the late great Captain Hook.

“Dear female offspring,
Since you are now reading this epistle, the thing I fear has most assuredly happened. I am dead… 
…the crocodile has sent me to my doom… 
…You are my only heir. As such you must avenge my death. I lay this charge upon you; Come to Neverland. Hunt the beast and destroy it in my name… 
…PS. you must consider this quest your inheritance, along with a few personal effects and a small bag of coins left with my bo’sun, Mr Smee. I may not be able to take my riches into the afterlife, but that is no reason to give them away.”

Without hesitation Jocelyn returns with Edgar to Neverland, meets Mr Smee and purchases herself a small vessel that she names, ‘Hooks Revenge’. All seems to be progressing to her plan until she hires a crew, sadly not the best Neverland has to offer, or second or third best, try sixteenth! The young crew are all afflicted with one aliment or another. One-Armed Jack only has one arm, despite actually having a full quota of limbs, Jim McCraig with a Wooden leg which is actually skin and bone. Or the lookout Blind Bart who has patches over both his functioning eyes.

“Begging your pardon, miss, but your men have some…how shall we put this Jonny? Some unusual characteristics. You see, they’ve not had much experience. Not like your regular crews. None of them have been in a real battle, but that doesn’t stop them wishing they had, so they, ah, pretend.

To make matters worse, her crew seem to have no discipline, preferring to play and for some obscure reason they refer to her as ‘Mother!’

Catching the enormous red-eyed ticking reptile, is tougher than Jocelyn imagined, made increasingly more difficult, by Neverland and its strange inhabitants, not least a very silly flying boy, and his volatile flying fairy.

“’Aren’t you here to be a mother to me and the lost boys? Mothers tell stories, and they do the washing and the mending and the scolding. Although if you want to forget the scolding, I won’t mind. But mothers must tell stories…if you don’t tell me a story right now, I shan’t take my medicine and you will be sorry!

Incensed by the silly flying boy, Jocelyn agrees to wage war with him and lost boys once she has killed the crocodile. After an attack from another vessel with a much more seasoned crew, Jocelyn finds herself on her own, and survives the dangers of Neverland by softening the heart of a mermaid, outwitting cannibals and saving a fairy prince who becomes her loyal friend. Yet despite her victories, the crocodile taunts her it’s ticking fraying her nerves, feeding on fear and doubt. Her doubts are magnified when she bumps into the lost boys and comes face to face with Roger who has no recollection of his life before Neverland and no memories of their friendship. The loss of her friends makes it all the more difficult when the time comes and it is Jocelyn or the crocodile, as she must be believe in herself and quell her fears in order to slay the beast.

Hook’s Daughter is a jolly, funny riveting read, she has taken Neverland and imitated and yet made it her own at the same time. One of the delights of Neverland is its character, the fact the world has a personality of its own and will wield its lands to suit its own agenda, Heidi Schulz has made every advantage of this in her book, having the land remould and reshape itself to create challenges and hurdles for Jocelyn to overcome. Another triumph is the inhabitants of Neverland, with all the expected characters we know; the ice-blooded Mermaids, the lost-boys, Peter, Tink, and Smee, who all seem exactly how they were in the original text. But Schulz, has also developed characters like the banished lost-boys, now young men turned pirates, or the crocodile who had mutated into a fierce beast poisoned by its last meal. Then Schulz has created her own characters, drawing on Neverland’s ever changing state dreamed up slumbering children, she has let her imagination run free creating colourful and delectable characters like The Karnapinae, the feathered-nosed cannibals with an obsession with England with ambition to fly there and dine on the population, or her expanded fairy realm, which also draws on fairy-lore.

The book is a great story, with adventure which emulates the voice of the original, with a perhaps more cranky narrator, who is himself very amusing, but she has also laid waste to the now antiquated view of the role of women and mother, as she is most adamantly not a fine lady, or destined to wash and mend clothes. Hook’s Daughter takes the best of Barrie’s Neverland and has used it to create a charming tale of self-discovery and swashbuckling adventure.

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